A Greenwood attorney hopes his “rags to riches” story and staunch conservative principles will be enough to land him in the General Assembly, replacing Democrat Floyd Nicholson in state Senate District 10.

Billy Garrett Jr., 62, announced Tuesday his candidacy, buffeted by a $50,000 loan he acquired July 18 from South State Bank, according to campaign finance disclosure documents.

A former Ninety Six municipal judge and founder of the Greenwood Mediation Center, Garrett said his courtroom tenacity positions him as a strong voice to represent the interests of his constituents.

He also had high praise for Nicholson, calling him a “fine man” and dedicated public servant, but believes his liberal stance on issues such as gun control and abortion puts him out of touch with the district’s priorities.

“I’m a conservative, completely,” Garrett said. “These liberals are trying to do things that I’m very uncomfortable with.”

Garrett’s early entry into the race, he hopes, will boost his name recognition and allow him to campaign across the district that spans Abbeville, McCormick, Greenwood counties, and a part of Saluda County. Filing officially opens March 16.

A Greenwood High School and University of South Carolina Law School graduate, Garrett was also in the initial class at Emerald Junior High School and worked at a local Piggly Wiggly bagging groceries and shining shoes to help pay for his education.

Garrett said he’s in favor of efforts by Gov. Henry McMaster and lawmakers to broaden the state’s Freedom of Information Act law, provide better teacher pay and a rollback in taxes.

“That is good for Republicans, and that is good for Democrats but more important, it’s good for all of us. Our government needs to be transparent, period,” Garrett said.

He said one of his primary reasons for entering the race was to give the district’s pro-life voters a clear choice.

“Floyd voted against a bill that was going to come out of the Senate that would have prevented a certain type of abortion where they basically reach up into the womb and tear the child apart. There were 24 cases of that in South Carolina, and I’m appalled by that, and I think the voters of Senate District 10 are appalled by that,” Garrett said. “I’m right-to-life across the board and I just have no basis for liking that being done, and it’s just got to stop.”

New to politics, Garrett said he’s also supportive of efforts to broaden the state’s energy market, pointing to the dismantling of Santee Cooper and a reformed Public Service Commission as key to South Carolina’s long-term fiscal and economic health.

“Duke Power just went through and got all these rate increases. They pay their CEO millions of dollars,” Garrett said. “I’m in favor of the PSC doing its job, and not being influenced by the legislature. The entire state got shafted with all that went on down there and whether we like it or not, Senate 10 has to suffer.”

A proponent of rural telecommunication expansion, Garrett said he wants to meet with voters in all parts of the district before making a decision.

He hopes to debate Nicholson ahead of the election.

“Floyd Nicholson is a fine man, and he’s done tremendous amounts of things for Greenwood and I will always be indebeted to what he’s done for Greenwood,” Garrett said. “I just really believe in my heart of hearts that Senate 10 has broadened his conservative base as opposed to lessening it and I think voters have a right to a different choice.”

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.